A day after the police fished out the body of ad executive Chintan Buch from Nira river in Sarole village near Pune, National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) jawans and local youths pulled out the remaining three bodies and the car from the riverbed last afternoon. The deceased were identified as Pranav Lele, Sahil Qureshi and Shrutika Chandwani, Buch’s colleagues.
Forty NDRF personnel resumed the search operation, which was called off on Wednesday evening due to poor light, at 8.30 am yesterday. The bodies and the vehicle were fished out by 1.30 pm. Maruti Taru, Sachin Kamble, Anil Kamble and Janardan Sangale, a few youngsters from the local Bhoi community from Bhor and Shirwal, who entered the river at 11 am, felt something.
Later, the NDRF jawans searched the spot and confirmed that it was the car. A crane was used to pull out the car from the water. However, the cable snapped due to the excess weight of the three bodies in the car and it fell into the river again. Another crane was then brought in to pull out the car around 1.30 pm. While Lele’s body was recovered from the front seat, Qureshi and Chandwani’s bodies were spotted on the back seat. Officials say that the window by Buch’s seat was open.
Deputy Superintendent of Police Milind Mohite said, “They must have been driving at the speed of around 100 kmph. The car must have jumped off the divider and fell into the river from the gap between the two bridges. Chintan might have tried to jump out of the car by opening the window. He was known to be a good swimmer. But he did not have gauged the distance to the banks and drowned due to exhaustion.”
A survey of the spot near the Nira river bridge done by the highway police revealed gross negligence on part of the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) and district officials in implementing traffic diversions, which they said claimed four lives. The road widening work on the Pune-Satara highway has been going on for the last three years and the old bridge on Nira river was also under repair. Superintendent of Police (Highway) Dilip Bhujbal said, “The spot where the mishap occurred does not have any history of accidents.
Road widening work is underway on that stretch, so the traffic has been diverted at several spots including the one near the old bridge. The final design, which has been approved, includes metal crash barriers and a protection wall. However, the work has been progressing at snail’s pace for the last three years.”
He added that traffic diversions implemented on the highway needs an approval from the collector. “After this approval, a notification is issued by the NHAI and then accordingly the traffic changes are implemented. If a fatal accident has happened near the bridge, it clearly indicates faulty implementation of traffic diversion,” Bhujbal said.
Sahil Qureshi’s uncle Parvez Ahmad said, “During our visit to the accident spot, we noticed that a signboard for the diversion is placed right at the start of the bridge. This is enough to induce an error of judgement in the driver. Since the kids were driving in the dark, and possibly at high speed, they must have taken the right and fallen into the river.”
He added that NHAI authorities should at least remove the diversion board placed at wrong spot to avoid accidents in future. “They should immediately construct a wall to prevent vehicles from falling into the river through the huge gap between the two bridges,” he said.